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AFP
November 21, 2019

New Israeli election looms

World

AFP
November 21, 2019

OCCUPIED-AL-QUDS: Israel edged closer to a third general election in a year on Wednesday, as kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman refused to back either incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu or challenger Benny Gantz for prime minister ahead of a midnight deadline.

Right-wing incumbent Netanyahu and centrist Gantz were nearly deadlocked after September elections, with neither able to command a majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament. Both had sought to persuade Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, which holds the balance of power, to join them in coalition.

Netanyahu was first given 28 days to form a ruling coalition but failed, so President Reuven Rivlin granted Gantz a similar timeframe, now due to expire at 23:59 (2159 GMT) on Wednesday.

But Lieberman said on Wednesday he thought new elections were inevitable. "Both are responsible" for the impasse, he said of Gantz and Netanyahu. "I have done everything in my power to form a unity government," Lieberman added.

"If we are dragged to new elections it will be because of a lack of leadership." If Gantz cannot cut a deal, lawmakers will have 21 days to propose to Rivlin a candidate capable of forming a majority.

If that period passes without a breakthrough, new elections will be called for early 2020 -- the third in a year. Polls held last April also led to stalemate in a proportional system reliant on coalition building.

A 60-year-old former paratrooper, Gantz had no previous political experience when he declared himself Netanyahu’s electoral rival in December. But he has posed the most serious challenge to Netanyahu since he became premier in 2009. Netanyahu, who is also fighting corruption allegations which he denies, has remained caretaker leader.

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